One Fabulous Thing

…because each day has at least one.

04.12.2010 Revolution May 4, 2010

Filed under: Food,Television — onefabulousthing @ 10:04 pm

Sometimes I am a little late to catching on to things, especially when it comes to new television shows, but thanks to the internet and a DVR I am able to keep myself reasonably informed of all things pop culture. I took a sick day today from work, due to a nasty flare up of what I think were allergies (aren’t you glad you asked?), and managed to sleep for about 4 hours of it. Under strict instructions from my husband to not fritter away the sick day with house work or projects, I took to the couch with my laptop and a cup of tea when I finally rolled out of bed.

I had heard about a new show via some Facebook status updates that sounded right up my alley, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. I did not have very high hopes, since I have largely written off network television – especially network reality shows – due to repetitive content and ridiculous commercialism (Seriously, have you ever seen the awkward product placement moments they try to incorporate into The Biggest Loser? Extra Sugarfree Gum is not a suitable replacement for a sweet treat!), but since the full episodes are available on ABC.com and I didn’t have much else going on, I watched the first four episodes.

I will say that I was not sold on the whole (spoiler!) Local DJ as Antagonist angle, but otherwise I was really, really impressed with what he is trying to do and how he is trying to do it. I have read a lot of books on the politics of food, most notably Food Politics (natch) by Marion Nestle, that address the issue of poor nutrition in schools and the decline of the home-cooked meal, and they have influenced the priorities that I have in providing food for my own family. It was really encouraging to watch how Jamie approached different segments of a town’s population in his attempts to get his important message across, including education, skills training, and discussions about motivations for changing.

It was also really encouraging that there were not any moments that stood out in the show as someone trying to sell me something. When what you are pushing is fresh vegetables and whole food ingredients, it’s difficult to slap a proprietary label on that and put it on a shelf, and this show didn’t try to do that. I am eager to see where this movement goes next, and glad that there is something that people are talking about right now that doesn’t include ridiculous people behaving badly for attention, like politics.

So, Fabulous Thing #102: Worthy pursuit, worthwhile television.

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04.10.2010 Breakfast for Dinner

Filed under: Food — onefabulousthing @ 8:20 pm

Today was the 70th birthday celebration for a relative of my husband’s. I have been looking forward to this party for a few weeks, since the invitation came and we discovered that the party would be held at a local diner, with breakfast-for-dinner as the menu.

When I was a kid, Breakfast For Dinner was always such an unexpected treat, as good as when I would come home from school to find two sticks of butter softening in my mother’s old brown stoneware bowl, signaling that chocolate chip cookies were in my immediate future. There’s just something about eating pancakes and maple sausage for dinner that is just the right amount of subversive for a weeknight in childhood.

As an adult, Breakfast For Dinner is always marked with an exclamation point on our refrigerator whiteboard where our weekly menu plan is found. It deserves special punctuation. The Bisquick pancakes and Aunt Jemima (well, store-brand version of Aunt Jemima) syrup from my youth has been replaced with homemade blueberry pancakes, or french toast with sauteed apples or peaches served with real Rhode Island maple syrup, but the spirit is just the same as it was back then.

To serve breakfast for dinner as party food is pretty inspired. Sitting at the little tables in the train car diner, enjoying Eggs Benedict while my son ate his way through a pancake twice the size of his head, I told my husband that I wanted this type of celebration for my 70th birthday. Or, maybe my 32nd.

So, Fabulous Thing #100 (!): Breakfast! For! Dinner!

 

03.31.2010 Flood Day April 4, 2010

Filed under: Food,Weather — onefabulousthing @ 8:34 pm

Usually in this neck of the woods, we have snow days. Today, due to the unprecedented amount of rain that has fallen over the past few days so close on the heels of our last big rainstorm, we had a flood day. Large sections of the major highway in Rhode Island were closed, making it essentially impossible to get into the city from where we live.

It felt really strange, staying home despite clear skies and moderate temperatures. I tried to get some work done from home, and for you to understand what that must have been like for me I want you to go strap 20 pounds worth of those animatronic flowers and Santa Clauses and whatnot that sing and wriggle with the slightest noise or movement onto your leg, enlist a hyperactive dog to dance around your feet and manage to put himself exactly where you want to step, find a cat to dip a paw in every glass of water you try to set down and shake it all over your papers, and get someone to go round and ring your doorbell with a package you need to sign for at the exact moment someone calls you with an important work matter to sort out.

So of course, I decided that it was a good day to make Minestrone Soup in the slow cooker and some Honey Wheat Bread in the breadmaker. It is actually less crazy than you think, since the soup was essentially put together bit by bit around naptime and a few enchanting minutes spent emptying all of the unlocked cabinets of their contents. The bread was a little trickier, but as long as you keep the yeast away from the wet ingredients it can also sit for a bit before starting up the process.

By the end of the day, when my husband got home (after driving all around the state to get back here) and my son had had just about enough of his stinky old mama, it was fantastic to have dinner already done. I pulled the bread from the breadmaker and we ate it still warm with bowls of the soup. Don’t ask how much work I got done.

So, Fabulous Thing #90: Putting my convenience appliances to good use.

 

03.27.2010 The Oreo Gene April 1, 2010

Filed under: Family,Food — onefabulousthing @ 8:36 pm

As you may have noticed, it’s Girl Scout Cookie Time. My husband and I were taken in by some young enterpeneurs this morning that had set up tables in front of a few of the stores nearby, to the tune of a box of Thin Mints and a box of Peanut Butter Sandwiches, FKA Do-Si-Dos. Who can resist cookies for such a good cause?

This afternoon after lunch, I impulsively (delightedly?) opened the Peanut Butter Sandwiches and handed one to my son (and two to my husband). He has never had a cookie before, being toothless until a few months ago and all, so at first he flipped it over in his hands, examining it from all angles.

Then, he grasped each half and twisted them apart.

As though he had been doing it for years, he raised the side with the peanut butter filling to his lips, took a bite, and grinned at us. He waved the cookie at us, asĀ  if to say, “Do you guys know about these? Fantastic!” He finished off the filling side, turned the plain side over in his hand, and fed it to the dog before asking for a new cookie. That’s my boy.

So, Fabulous Thing #86: Nature wins over nurture…and Girl Scout Cookies win, period.

 

03.26.2010 Cheers

Filed under: Food — onefabulousthing @ 7:32 pm

Tonight was the night we celebrated our second wedding anniversary. We went to the restaurant where we had our first dinner on our honeymoon, and where we celebrated our first anniversary last year. The restaurant is The White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, and that link takes you to an explanation of one of the reasons we love it so much. The White Horse first opened as an eating establishment in 1673, and the historic feel of the building adds another dimension to the experience of dining there.

One of the perks of getting married in March is that you get to celebrate your anniversary right on the cusp of spring, but you are still able to cozy up to the fire that is constantly tended at The White Horse while savoring beef wellington and their famous bread pudding with bourbon butter sauce as a last-ditch effort to enjoy heartier winter fare before moving on to cool salads and things on the grill. This was a night like that.

But that’s not the most fabulous thing. The One Fabulous Thing of today was ordering, sharing, and finishing a bottle of delicious Pinot Noir with my husband of two years. First, the waiter removed the white wine glasses from the table (why is the assumption white, anyway?) and replaced them with two ostentatious red wine glasses that were roughly the size of my head. Next, the uncorking and pouring and tasting ritual that my husband leaves up to me, because he’s pretty much up for anything where wine is concerned. Then, the toast. The discussions about work, and politics, and slightly scandalous gossip. More pouring, some lingering over dessert, and finally finishing the bottle.

Why is this the One Fabulous Thing? People, it’s been TWO YEARS since I shared an entire bottle of wine with my husband in one night. Two years. I have had an occasional glass since the baby was born, but never more than one while I was nursing. I have missed the ritual of a bottle of wine, the way it draws out a meal and makes you stay at the table a bit longer. I have missed the way it pairs with different courses and makes the food come alive. I like that it is a celebratory thing, to clink those gigantic delicate glasses and drink to another wonderful year and hopefully many, many more.

So, Fabulous Thing #85: A bottle of red.

 

03.24.2010 Just Keep Stirring March 27, 2010

Filed under: Food — onefabulousthing @ 10:24 pm

Today, I made risotto. Risotto has always been one of those sticking points in my culinary repertoire, the thing that I have had a mental block against due to perceived difficulty and fussiness. Also, I am generally known to be rice-challenged.

Say What?

Yes, that’s right. I can’t cook rice so that it is the appropriate texture. It is either tooth-crackingly underdone or a pile of mush, and it has gone down both roads using equal amounts of water, the same amount of time, and the same pot. I am absolutely certain that this curse has befallen me because I masterminded a shell game of housewares that resulted in my husband’s much-beloved but undeniably ugly and unitasking microwave rice cooker being passed on to his cousin a few years back.

My fallback plan has become the packets of frozen microwavable organic brown nice from Trader Joe’s, and they have provided a serviceable base to pile stir frys on and a worthy companion to chicken, pork, and other proteins. I bought a container of aborio rice for a slow-cooker risotto recipe recently, and decided to bite the bullet and try the basic risotto recipe on the side of the container.

As I cooked the shallots in the butter and olive oil, I started to get a little panicked about timing. I was cooking salmon on the stovetop as well, and wanted to incorporate a green vegetable in there somewhere. I got the chicken stock and the cup of rice in place, knowing that once the rice hit the pan there was no turning back. I added the rice and cooked for a few minutes, then one cup of stock. I stirred gently in a figure eight pattern as I had been instructed, trying to coax the grains into absorbing the stock.

At a certain point, I had to use my stirring hand to get the salmon going. I put the silicone spatula down, knowing that I was most likely dooming my risotto to failure by leaving it for more than a second. But you know what? It was actually OK. I started the salmon in a separate pan, and returned to the risotto, stirring and adding more stock and adjusting the heat when it felt like it needed it. The recipe had no time on it, so I went with what seemed to make sense, tweaking things as I went along.

When the salmon was just about done, I tasted the risotto and was pleased with the creamy texture and the still-intact, but not too hard, grains. I threw caution to the wind and added a handful of parmesan cheese and some frozen peas with a grind of fresh pepper. A minute later, the peas were perfect and the risotto was served, on time, with the salmon.

Lesson learned. I let some things get built up in my mind to be so precious and difficult; but when I actually get my hands into it, it’s easier than I thought.

So, Fabulous Thing #83: Risotto, conquered.

 

03.18.2010 Ice Cream March 21, 2010

Filed under: Food — onefabulousthing @ 6:41 pm

I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t eaten ice cream since the homemade ice cream shop down the street from my house closed last October, but that statement is pretty close to being true. I’m sure there were some sad little scoops of vanilla ice cream alongside cake at birthday parties, and I may have even splurged on a pint or two of Ben & Jerry’s in the last 5 months. But truly, those don’t count.

When I drove by earlier this week and saw that the ice cream shop would be open for the season starting today, I immediately started thinking about how wonderful it will be to stroll up there on lazy summer afternoons with the baby, sitting at one of the picnic tables out front to enjoy our cones and sundaes or taking them to go for a walk around the neighborhood or to the playground. I’m not sure why I had that scenario in my head, because we have never once done that.

What actually happens during Ice Cream Season is we eat dinner at home, and as we are finishing I smile and look at my husband. He takes the hint that he was hoping I would drop all along, and races to get there before they close in the slightly off-season months, and before the line is out the door in the summer. That is exactly how it went down tonight. Coffee Heath Bar Frozen Yogurt to start off Ice Cream Season. Delicious.

So, Fabulous Thing #77: The ice cream shop is open for business.